Posts Tagged ‘Expedia’

I’m going to spend most of today booking international travel on the web.  I have the basic itinerary set—though not confirmed because you never know for sure until you have finished booking the travel.  I’ve done some preliminary checking on trains versus air for some portions of our trip.  I know when I need to rent the car and where we will return it.

So today is the day to commit! And since our trip is less than a month away, I’m quite aware that I may run into availability issues and I may not get the absolutely lowest price—but I might!  It’s a treasure hunt! Or a scavenger hunt!  It’s a challenge!

There are no magic websites! If what you are looking for is the magic web travel agency that will give you exactly what you want with the lowest fares and throw in business class upgrades, well, you won’t find it here—and please send it to me when you do. I’ve never found such a site.  But I can give you a few tips about using the web to book your travel that could be very helpful to you.

  1. Use more than one website to search—until you either find exactly what you want or you find out that everybody is offering you something less. I will probably start with Expedia (www.expedia.com) . I know that it is one of the oldest travel sites and one you have used many times, but I keep coming back to it as very reliable and just a good place to start for comparisons.  Other sites like this are Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) and Orbitz (www.orbitz.com) .
  2. There are some websites that let you search multiple sites at once. Kayak (www.kayak.com) is one of the more popular. I also like www.airfarewatch.com, www.shermanstravel.com ,  and www.yapta.com .
  3. I always check the website of the airline that appears to offer the lowest price. Sometimes you will find lower prices. Sometimes you will find other flights that are better. Sometimes you will find only higher prices! If you find only higher prices, it may mean that you may not get the lower price from another website.  Read on!
  4. Your tickets are not really booked until they are confirmed. Yes, you gave them your credit card number and everything else—and it feels like it is for sure, but it is not! Virtually all the websites first sell you the ticket, then confirm it with the airlines. Occasionally, they come back and say, sorry, the price has changed. Do you still want the ticket?  That’s very irritating because you have already booked more travel based on that itinerary, so you are often stuck with a higher price.
  5. If you have flexibility, don’t hesitate to use Priceline to get cheaper tickets. I have bought international and domestic tickets on Priceline, but you have to be very flexible. You can choose the date, but you can’t choose the airline or the time of day that you fly. I have never had a bad experience with Priceline.  Rental cars and airport hotels are what I book most often on Priceline.
  6. Rental cars and hotels are often cheaper to book at the last minute. This is another reason to book your air travel first. Again, I go to Priceline—sometimes even on the day I’m traveling. If I book a hotel, then I usually go to www.hotwire.com or look at Priceline’s own site to check on which hotels are located where. If there are only one or two 3-star hotels in a certain part of town, then I can be pretty sure which hotel I’m bidding for in the “Name Your Own Price” section of Priceline.  We have stayed in many top hotels for $40/night when booked this way. And I rarely pay over $25/day for a full-size rental car.
  7. Check out the customer reviews on hotels when it makes a difference to you! Sometimes you just need a place to sleep near the airport, so price is the main thing. Other times, when you are taking a couple of days off from traveling, you want a good bed, cleanliness, and good service.  I almost always look at www.tripadvisor.com and see what other people think of the hotel. This site has saved me several times from booking a hotel that looked great on the internet, but that real people had had terrible experiences with.
  8. Try using foreign travel websites. I’m not sure how the big U.S. websites choose which airlines to search, but I do know that if I am having trouble getting either the flight I want or the schedule, then I always go to a foreign website.   For years, I used www.opondo.de – a German website because we speak and read German.  A couple of years ago, I typed in “German discount airfares” and found a wonderful German travel agency ( www.sky-tours.com ) that gave me many more flight options and much better prices  that year.  These sites may include the discount airlines that won’t pay to be included in the American website searches.  By the way, when planning driving in Europe, I always use www.viamichelin.com navigation site rather than mapquest or google maps. I find it more accurate and more helpful with restaurants and hotels.
  9. If you are planning a tour, don’t forget the travel guide sites for hints on best airlines, best ways to get around, etc. We have personally found the Rick Steves European guides to be excellent (www.ricksteves.com) . Other helpful sites are www.lonelyplanet.com , www.fodors.com and www.michelin.com .
  10. There is no end to the information you can gather and the options you have for purchasing your travel needs, so do the basic research, get an idea of what you want to pay, and when you find it, BOOK IT! If you hold out, trying to find something a few dollars cheaper, I can almost guarantee you that the good price you found will disappear before you get back to it. It’s somebody’s law—but it always happens to me!
  11. Keep good records of what you buy. I print out hard copies of all reservations and line them up in order of use in a file that I carry with me on the trip—not very tech savvy, but helpful when you need it in some foreign airport.

Well, I’m off to the office to start my treasure hunt!  I’ll let you know if I learn anything new today! I’d like to hear your favorite websites for travel as well!

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